Opinion Columns & Blogs

Providing equal pay for equal work would lift everyone

In the 10th Congressional District, working women make 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. And while that figure is stronger than the national average of 78 cents, it still means women in the South Sound must work months longer to reach comparable earnings to men, with an average difference in pay of more than $10,000 per year.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, nearly 60 percent of working women would earn more if paid the same as men of the same age with similar education and hours of work. Closing the gap would also cut the poverty rate for working women in half, from 8.1 percent to 3.9 percent.

To be clear, the balancing of the scales doesn’t mean that women gain and men lose. More pay means more disposable income injected right back into our stores, services, and housing market. Equitable pay for women helps all families reap the rewards of a prosperous economy booming from higher paychecks.

The Paycheck Fairness Act — first introduced in 2005 by then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and reintroduced this Congress by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro — updates the Equal Pay Act to close loopholes that kept it from achieving its goal of equal pay for equal work.

In order to provide more transparency and accountability with salary information, the Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen penalties to employers who punish workers for discussing pay with their coworkers, and requires employers to provide a justification for wage differences. Right now, any employee, male or female, can be punished for simply telling a coworker what amount appears on their paycheck. Companies can let go a male employee and hire a female replacement based on the assumption that a woman would accept a lower rate of pay. These policies are unfair for everyone.

And from a business’ perspective, increased transparency can help your bottom line by reducing employee turnover. Evidence indicates that employees’ performance and morale are better when they believe their employer is fair when it comes to pay.

Today, organizations like the American Association for University Women are there to help close the gap. Their “ Smart Start Workshops” can inform and empower women on how to approach salary and benefit negotiations with confidence, knowledge, and skills. One workshop will be taking place April 24 at Pacific Lutheran University. We encourage women who want to learn more to attend, or look online for more resources.

Through improvements to the Equal Pay Act, as well as showing all workers how they can demonstrate their value, soon enough we’ll find a rewarding payday for all American workers.